President Joe Biden announced Tuesday a new federal goal to get at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot in 70 percent of the U.S. adult population and 160 million adults fully vaccinated by July 4, 2021.
Accessibility is the main focus in the next leg of the vaccination effort. To that end, the government will promote more walk-in appointments, launch more pop-up clinics and mobile units, and provide millions in funds to support vaccine education and outreach efforts in rural and underserved communities. In fact, the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) will utilize $250 million to support a community-based workforce as means of offering trusted local voices for sharing information about and increasing confidence in COVID-19 vaccines among communities still considered vulnerable or underserved.
“Soon, we’ll have reached the adults who are most eager to get vaccinated, and, at that point, this effort will shift to a new phase, which is what I want to talk about today,” Biden said Tuesday’s address. “Our new phase will focus on three areas. First, kids, children between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age. They are not yet eligible for a vaccine. The FDA’s scientists are currently reviewing the data to decide if — if and when to authorize that age range for vaccinations. The FDA — and the FDA alone — will make that decision. But today, I want American parents to know that if that announcement comes, we are ready to move immediately –immediately move to make about 20,000 pharmacy sites across the country ready to vaccinate those adolescents as soon as the FDA grants it’s okay.”
Federal pharmacy partners are being directed to offer walk-in vaccinations throughout the country, and states are being encouraged to follow suit at state vaccination sites. Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will focus on the hardest-to-reach individuals, working to continue establishing vaccine infrastructure through smaller and more mobile clinics.
The $250 million allotment, in its present form, will focus on organizations with broad geographical reach to support the most vulnerable. A second funding opportunity will be released later this month to focus on smaller, more community-based organizations. Another more than $130 million will be given to improve vaccine education and information, as well as to reduce health disparities in certain communities, working through organizations with long records of supporting racial and ethnic minorities, rural populations, and those with disabilities. Further, nearly $250 million will be awarded to state, territorial, and certain municipal governments to aid in further outreach efforts.
Other areas of focus include making it more convenient for underserved communities to access vaccines and easier to educate those still against vaccination.
“Increasing public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and boosting uptake remains a critical part of our fight against this virus,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a separate statement. “Today’s funding is critically important for connecting vulnerable and underserved communities with trusted health voices who can help deliver vaccinations and information to keep them safe and protect their loved ones.
Additionally, Biden noted that while confidence has risen steadily over the past few months across most population segments, the fact that younger groups believe they do not need a vaccine remains to be a setback to broader efforts.
The Biden administration recognized that many remain unvaccinated because they either have found the process confusing, too difficult, and/or too inconvenient. A new website, vaccines.gov, was launched this week to provide a one-stop-shop for anyone potentially interested to find locations for a shot and make appointments nationwide. Texting options have also been set up.
“The fact is that nearly 85 percent of seniors have had at least one vaccination shot, and the wide cross-section of the nation trust the vaccine regardless of race or ideology,” Biden said. “Now we need to make that same progress for those under 65 years of age. There are a lot of younger people, especially those in their 20s and 30s, who believe they don’t need it. Well, I want to be absolutely clear: You do need to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated not only protects you, it also reduces the risk that you give the virus to somebody else. It could save your life or the lives of people you love.”
Going forward, vaccines will be dispatched directly to rural health clinics in the most underserved areas, and more than $100 million will support vaccine outreach from those clinics. Another nearly $860 million in funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration will help these sites increase COVID-19 testing and mitigation, offering up to $100,000 for each federally designated clinic and up to $230,000 per small rural hospital.
Meanwhile, the administration will likewise extend vaccination offerings further into the front end of the medical world, focusing on pediatricians and family physicians who often have more contact with younger patients.
To date, Biden noted that more than 220 million shots have been given to patients throughout the country within his first 100 days.